By Michael Lello
You might notice a few familiar names in Royal Southern Brotherhood’s lineup – Allman and Neville, specifically, two of Southern music’s royal families.
With Devon Allman on guitar and vocals, and Cyril Neville on percussion on vocals, the RSB is carrying on the traditions of their famous families. Along with bandmates Mike Zito (guitar and vocals), Charlie Wooton (bass) and Yonrico Scott (drums), the RSB is touring in support of its self-titled debut, having just returned from a string of European dates. On Saturday Aug. 17, RSB will kick off the Peach Festival’s second full day of music with a 12:30 p.m. set on the main stage at Toyota Pavilion at Montage Mountain in Scranton.
Devon – the son of Allman Brothers Band founding organist and singer Gregg Allman – recently checked in with Highway 81 Revisited from Notodden, Norway, to talk about RSB’s overseas excursion, his well-known bloodlines and what’s to come from RSB and beyond.
H81R: Tell us how Royal Southern Brotherhood came together.
DA: It was born out of the idea of “What would it be like to have a Neville and an Allman in the same band?” Anything can look good on paper, but it has to be real to engage everyone and to be pure. An hour into our very first jam, I knew we had something VERY special. It’s grown so much in just under two years. We are a true brotherhood now.
H81R: How has the band developed and grown since it started?
DA: The synchronicity has come a long way. It’s super cohesive, and the stage show is getting really badass. Everyone is finding their place in the songs and playing together really well. The personal side has grown deeper too, after spending almost two years on tour in 20 countries. We love each other, and we love the music.
H81R: How has the European tour been going?
DA: It’s really starting to kick in over here in Europe for us. We are doing four different tours this year in Europe. We are currently halfway through a month-long run concentrating heavily on the Scandinavian region and doing many festivals with our friends and heroes. It just keeps growing for us, and we are very grateful to be here Royal-izing the Euros !
H81R: Where in Europe are you now?
DA: I’m currently in Notodden, Norway. We are here all week getting ready to play the big Notodden Blues Festival with Van Morrison and Tedeschi Trucks Band. The next couple days off will be spent in a local studio writing songs for Royal Southern Brotherhood’s second album. Due April 2014.
H81R: Do you consider RSB to be a full-time, long-term project?
DA: I told Cyril Neville that I’m here for as long as he wants to get his ass on stage. I hope that it goes for a long, long time, as RSB is my main priority.
H81R: What are your plans for RSB in the near future? Any plans to record a follow-up album?
DA: We load into Dockside Studios on December 1 with Jim Gaines producing. We have decided to go to the same studio and use the same producer as album number one. It’s a comfort zone for us. Gaines is like our sixth member . . . He pushes us to be great and is excellent at zoning in on the good performances and trimming the fat when it comes to arrangements.
H81R: How would you compare RSB to your music with Devon Allman’s Honeytribe or your solo career?
DA: I think solo-wise I’m in a great spot because I actually learned a lot being in RSB. My solo stuff is more personal and more laidback. Royal has just a bigness about it when it comes to the show and songs.
H81R: There seems to be a real family vibe with the Allman Brothers. Derek is Butch’s nephew, you’re Gregg’s son obviously. Besides the obvious bloodlines, do you feel a brotherhood with that band and the various other related bands like Gov’t Mule, etc.?
DA: Well sure, I think we all (myself, Derek, Warren, etc.) have been tapped by the musical forces of the universe to perpetuate this style of music for the people that love it and need it. I’m happy to be a part of this extended family.
H81R: You will be playing here at Peach Festival in Scranton. Do you plan on hanging out and sitting in with any bands, like ABB, Mule, Black Crowes, etc.?
DA: Would love to, but I’m double dipping that day . . . play Peach really early, like noon , then hightail it up to New York to do an evening show. Warren just sat in with RSB in Belgium and straight tore shit up!
H81R: Did you read your father’s book “My Cross To Bear”?
DA: Just finished it last night for the second time.
H81R: How do you feel about it? Were there things in there about his life that you didn’t know?
DA: It’s his book, his story, so it’s not my place, nor really anyone’s, to judge. It was brutally honest in some sections, but I think that’s what people want. I’d heard 90 percent of the stories before, obviously, but it was cool to have them all in one concise location. Little Richard hitting on him I was unaware of, and the run-in with Jim Morrison was pretty classic. My old man has lived like 30 lives, man . . . it’s an interesting path he’s got rocking.
H81R: I think I saw you post on Facebook that you want to play Duane in the movie adaptation of the book. Where does that stand?
DA: I’ve been told I’ll be able to screen test for it . . .not sure of the status. I acted all through high school, have acted in independent TV shows, and even considered it as a career in my early years. It’s a wonderful art.
H81R: Speaking of Duane, he’s obviously influenced countless guitarists. What does his playing mean to you, and is it something extra special to you because he’s family?
DA: I think my most respect when it comes to Duane is centered around his putting the ABB together, his vision not just for his playing, but for the group. No one was really fusing those styles of music. I’ve never sat down to learn all his licks or slide guitar. I’ve just always been out to find my own voice.
H81R: What other projects, musical or otherwise, are you currently working on?
DA: I just wrapped producing an EP for a new group Delta Sol Revival. It’s a really strong record, and I’m very into producing young artists to help keep this style of music alive. I’m writing for a new RSB record and a new solo record.
H81R: Is there anything else I didn’t ask about that you’d like to mention?
DA: I think we’re good . . . thanks for the coverage !
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